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A Memoir of the Last Year of the War for Independence in the Confederate States of America/Introduction2

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The Valley of Virginia, in its largest sense, embraces all that country lying between the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains, which unite at its south-western end.

The Shenandoah Valley, which is a part of the Valley of Virginia, embraces the Counties of Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Page, Warren, Clarke, Frederick, Jefferson, and Berkeley. This valley is bounded on the north by the Potomac, on the south by the County of Rockbridge, on the east by the Blue Ridge, and on the west by the Great North Mountain and its ranges.

The Shenandoah River is composed of two branches, called, respectively, the "North Fork" and the "South Fork," which unite near Front Royal in Warren County. The North Fork rises in the Great North Mountain, and runs eastwardly to within a short distance of New Market in Shenandoah County, and thence north-east by Mount Jackson to Strasburg, where it turns east to Front Royal. The South Fork is formed by the union of North River, Middle River, and South River. North River and Middle River, running from the west, unite near Port Republic in Rockingham County. South River rises in the south-eastern part of Augusta, and runs by Waynesboro', along the western base of the Blue Ridge, to Port Republic, where it unites with the stream formed by the junction of the North and Middle rivers. From Port Republic, the South Fork of the Shenandoah runs north-east, through the eastern border of Rockingham and the county of Page, to Front Royal in Warren county.

The North Fork and South Fork are separated by the Massanutten Mountain, which is connected with no other mountain, but terminates abruptly at both ends. Its northern end is washed at its base, just below Strasburg, by the North Fork. Its southern end terminates near the road between Harrisonburg and Conrad's Store on the South Fork, at which latter place the road through Swift Run Gap in the Blue Ridge crosses that stream. Two valleys are thus formed, the one on the North Fork being called "The Main Valley," and the other on the South Fork, and embracing the County of Page and part of the County of Warren, being usually known by the name of "The Luray Valley." The Luray Valley unites with the Main Valley at both ends of the mountain. There is a good road across Massanutten Mountain, from one valley to the other, and through a gap near New Market. South of this gap there is no road across the mountain, and north of it the roads are very rugged and not practicable for the march of a large army with its trains. At the northern or lower end of Massanutten Mountain, and between two branches of it, is a valley called "Powell's Fort Valley" or more commonly "The Fort." This valley is accessible only by the very rugged roads over the mountain which have been mentioned, and through a ravine at its lower end. From its isolated position, it was not the theatre of military operations of any consequence, but merely furnished a refuge for deserters, stragglers, and fugitives, from the battle-fields.

From Front Royal the Shenandoah River runs along the western base of the Blue Ridge to Harper's Ferry, where it unites with the Potomac, which here bursts through the mountains. The mountain in extension of the range of the Blue Ridge from this point through Maryland and Pennsylvania is called "South Mountain."

Strictly speaking, the County of Berkeley and the greater part of Frederick are not in the Valley of the Shenandoah. The Opequon, rising south-west of Winchester, and crossing the Valley Pike four or five miles south of that place, turns to the north and empties into the Potomac some distance above its junction with the Shenandoah; the greater part of Frederick and nearly the whole of Berkeley being on the western side of the Opequon.

Little North Mountain, called in the lower valley "North Mountain," runs north-east, through the western portions of Shenandoah, Frederick, and Berkeley Counties, to the Potomac. At its northern end, where it is called North Mountain, it separates the waters of the Opequon from those of Back Creek.

Cedar Creek rises in Shenandoah County, west of Little North Mountain, and running north-east along its western base, passes through that mountain, four or live miles from Strasburg, and, then making a circuit, empties into the North Fork of the Shenandoah, about two miles below Strasburg.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad crosses the Potomac at Harper's Ferry, and passing through Martinsburg in Berkeley County, crosses Back Creek near its mouth, runs up the Potomac, crossing the South Branch of that river near its mouth, and then the North Branch to Cumberland in Maryland. From this place it runs into Virginia again and, passing through North Western Virginia, strikes the Ohio river by two stems terminating at Wheeling and Parkersburg, respectively.

There is a railroad from Harper's Ferry to Winchester, called "The Winchester and Potomac Railroad," and also one from Manassas Junction on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, through Manassas Gap in the Blue Ridge, by Front Royal and Strasburg, to Mount Jackson, called "The Manassas Gap Railroad;" but both of these roads were torn up and rendered unserviceable in the year 1862, under the orders of General Jackson.

From Staunton in Augusta County, there is a fine macadamized road called "The Valley Pike," running through Mount Sidney, Mount Crawford, Harrisonburg, New Market, Mount Jackson, Edinburg, Woodstock, Strasburg, Middletown, Newtown, Bartonsville, and Kernstown to Winchester in Frederick County, and crossing Middle River seven miles from Staunton, North River at Mount Crawford eighteen miles from Staunton, the North Fork of the Shenandoah at Mount Jackson, Cedar Creek between Strasburg and Middletown, and the Opequon at Bartonsville, four or five miles from Winchester. There is also another road west of the Valley Pike, connecting these several villages, called the "Back Road," and, in some places, another road between the Valley Pike and the Back Road, which is called the "Middle Road."

From Winchester there is a macadamized road, via Martinsburg, to Williamsport on the Potomac in Maryland, and another, via Berryville in Clarke County, and Charlestown in Jefferson County, to Harper's Ferry. There is also a good pike from Winchester to Front Royal, which crosses both forks of the Shenandoah just above their junction; and from Front Royal there are good roads up the Luray Valley, and by the way of Conrad's Store and Port Republic, to Harrisonburg and Staunton.

From Staunton, south, there are good roads passing through Lexington, in Rockbridge County, and Buchanan, in Botetourt County, to several points on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad; and others direct from Staunton and Lexington to Lynchburg.

The Central Railroad, from Richmond, passes through the Blue Ridge, with a tunnel at Rockfish Gap, and runs through Waynesboro and Staunton, westwardly to Jackson's River, which is one of the head-streams of James River.

This description of the country is given in order to render the following narrative intelligible without too much repetition.

In the spring of 1864, before the opening of the campaign, the lower Shenandoah Valley was held by the Federal troops, under Major-General Sigel, with his head-quarters at Winchester, while the upper Valley was held by Brigadier-General Imboden, of the Confederate Army, with one brigade of cavalry, or mounted infantry, and a battery of artillery. When the campaign opened, Sigel moved up the Valley, and Major-General Breckenridge moved from South-Western Virginia, with two brigades of infantry and a battalion of artillery, to meet him. Breckenridge, having united his forces with Imboden's, met and defeated Sigel, at New Market, on the 15th day of May, driving him back towards Winchester. Breckenridge then crossed the Blue Ridge, and joined General Lee, at Hanover Junction, with his two brigades of infantry and the battalion of artillery. Subsequently, the Federal General Hunter organized another and larger force than Sigel's, and moved up the Valley; and, on the 5th day of June, defeated Brigadier-General William E. Jones, at Piedmont, between Port Republic and Staunton—Jones' force being composed of a very small body of infantry, and a cavalry force which had been brought from South-Western Virginia, after Breckenridge's departure from the Valley. Jones was killed, and the remnant of his force, under Brigadier-General Vaughan, fell back to Waynesboro. Hunter's force then united with another column which had moved from Lewisburg, in Western Virginia, under the Federal General Crook. As soon as information was received of Jones' defeat and death, Breckenridge was sent back to the Valley, with the force he had brought with him.